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June 26, 1999


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Leonardo Of Condoms Does It Again

E-Mail this report to a friend John Paul in New York

It might not be pretty, but it just may be the new king of the jungle.

Dr. Reddy InSpiral, the winding, twisting, mess of a condom that claims to yield maximum sensation has just reached thousands of shops across America -- and its inventor Dr Alla Venkata Krishna Reddy, 59, hopes that customers will sing its praise so much that he would be laughing soon all the way to the bank.

Dr Reddy is not one of those people who believe in the old adage -- once bitten twice shy. For that matter he is also not one of those men who would give up because one of the dreams burst. He and his business partners have reportedly spent about $ 7 million in inventing, manufacturing and distributing his new creation, InSpiral. And now he is working on large scale introduction of his another invention, a female condom.

A court in Newark, New Jersey, last month refused to ban InSpiral, rejecting an appeal by the manufacturers of Pleasure Plus, who complained that InSpiral resembled Pleasure Plus, which was also created by Reddy many years ago.

Following the judgment, a Michigan-based firm, Intell & Ex inc., began shipping thousands of InSpiral cases to more than 3,000 drug stores, Planned Parenthood organizations and sex shops across America early this month. A packet of dozen InSpirals sells for about $ 12.

Intell & Ex also opened an InSpiral exhibition at the National Symposium for Overcoming the Barriers to Condom Use, held in New York a few days ago.

With Dr Reddy winning the condom battle, both Pleasure Plus and InSpiral are in the market and the competition between the two products is fierce, according to many retailers. Some shops report bigger sale for InSpiral.

"Both products are excellent," says a Manhattan shop owner. "But many people have read articles in The New York Times and other publications that Dr Reddy has designed a new condom."

"So people naturally assume that the new condom, InSpiral, is an improvement over Pleasure Plus."

Pleasure Plus, invented by DrReddy six years ago, became one of the hottest selling condoms. It was rated the best condom by such publications as Cosmopolitan and Men's Health. He said one of the reasons he invented Pleasure Plus was to encourage people to use condoms and have safer sex.

"If a condom gives the maximum pleasure even those who are reluctant to use one, will love to use it," he said. "In the age of AIDS, we must strive to offer the best quality and safest condoms."

Dr Reddy, an alumnus of the Stanley Medical College in Chennai, began developing specialised condoms in 1986 as the concern over AIDS began to spread across America.

Dr Reddy, a general surgeon who is married to Sarojini and has three sons, manufactures the condoms in Tamil Nadu. In 1990, he left the Carbon County Memorial Hospital in Rawlins, Wyoming to develop and market the contraceptives. He now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Attorney Harry Blackburn describes his client "as a man who really wants to help people fight AIDS, a person with a golden heart but not always successful at business."

Dr Reddy, dubbed the "Leonardo" of condoms by Adam Glickman, president of Condomonia, a successful sex gadgets business, ran into financial problems soon after his condom caught on.

By the mid 1990s, Reddy Laboratories International Ltd. suffered several setbacks. In 1995, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered a recall of Pleasure Plus condoms because of leakage problems. Around the same time, Reddy Laboratories, beset with distribution woes, filed for Chapter 11 protection.

As a result, Pleasure Plus disappeared in 1995. When last year, Pleasure Plus was about to be reincarnated, its manufacturers heard about InSpiral.

Dr Reddy says he did not create InSpiral for any devious reason. He just thought he should have a chance at creating another condom. After all, he is the Leonardo Da Vince of condoms, isn't he?

The battle of the two condoms is a severe blow to the friendship between Dr Reddy and John Rogers, an Illinois attorney and certified public accountant, who was his financial adviser for several years.

When Reddy Laboratories ran into trouble, Rogers bought the rights to the Pleasure Plus patent, and marketed the condom under Portfolio Technologies Inc of which he was the major shareholder. Dr Reddy retained the right to market Pleasure Plus outside the United States.

When he heard that Dr Reddy was coming out with a new condom, Rogers felt betrayed. He felt Dr Reddy sold out the original patent to stay alive in business, and a few years later, introduced a new condom which was very much like the one he had sold.

Portfolio Technologies' attorney Robert Smith argued that InSpiral and Pleasure Plus are so similar that selling both side by side would damage the latter's sales. "In terms of harm, they serve the same niche market as an enhanced pleasure condom," said Smith. "We believe they are the only asymmetrical condoms."

Portfolio Technologies claims in court papers that its only assets are the value of the patents to the Pleasure Plus and that the company already has spent $ 400,000 to reintroduce the popular condom.

Dr Reddy recalls fondly how he went back to the drawing board to design a condom that he believed would be even better. Like the Pleasure Plus, the InSpiral features a looser fit to enhance sensation. However this time, the looser fitting shape is in the form of bulging pouches that appear to twist their way up the head of the condom. He believes his new design adds an additional dynamic element that further enhances sensation.

The two condoms look very different. Pleasure Plus has a "pouch" at the closed end of the condom while InSpiral has a spiral shape that resembles a Nautilus shell.

Dr Reddy's attorney, Blackburn, argued the infringement claim had no merit. "There's a difference between a pouch and a spiral," he says.

And the judge agreed.

"The InSpiral condom is a clear deviation from the embodiments protected by the plaintiff's patents," Judge Greenway said.

Saying "we are kind of deflated now," Robert Smith, an attorney for Portfolio, has announced he is considering an appeal.

Dr Reddy also has filed a counterclaim against Portfolio, claiming it "misrepresented to persons in the condom industry" that InSpiral infringed on the patents, without checking to see whether InSpiral had its own patent. He is seeking damages for profits lost by not being able to bring the new condom to market.

Blackburn says Dr Reddy's plans for the InSpiral were no surprise. During bankruptcy proceedings to liquidate Reddy International, when the value of the patent of Pleasure Plus was being determined, Dr Reddy stated he had developed a new condom, according to Blackburn. "This was never a secret. They knew that the InSpiral was coming out."

Blackburn says his client may not be a great businessman, but "he's very creative at what he does."

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